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J Environ Manage. 2013 Sep 30;127:317-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.05.052. Epub 2013 Jun 26.

Thermal stratification patterns in urban ponds and their relationships with vertical nutrient gradients.

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Department of Biology, Trent University, 1600 West Bank Drive, Peterborough, ON K9J 7B8, Canada.


Ponds that collect and process stormwater have become a prominent feature of urban landscapes, especially in areas recently converted to residential land use in North America. Given their increasing number and their tight hydrological connection to residential catchments, these small aquatic ecosystems could play an important role in urban biogeochemistry. However, some physicochemical aspects of urban ponds remain poorly studied. Here we assessed the frequency and strength of water column stratification, using measurements of vertical water temperature profiles at high spatial and temporal frequency, in 10 shallow urban stormwater management ponds in southern Ontario, Canada. Many of the ponds were well stratified during much of the summer of 2010 as indicated by relatively high estimates of thermal resistance to mixing (RTRM) indices. Patterns of stratification reflected local weather conditions but also varied among ponds depending on their morphometric characteristics such as maximum water depth and surface area to perimeter ratio. We found greater vertical nutrient gradients and more phosphorus accumulation in bottom waters in ponds with strong and persistent stratification, which likely results from limited particle resuspension and more dissolved phosphorus (P) release from sediments. However, subsequent mixing events in the fall diminished vertical P gradients and possibly accelerated internal loading from the sediment-water interface. Our results demonstrate that stormwater ponds can experience unexpectedly long and strong thermal stratification despite their small size and shallow water depth. Strong thermal stratification and episodic mixing in ponds likely alter the quantity and timing of internal nutrient loading, and hence affect water quality and aquatic communities in downstream receiving waters.


Internal loading; Morphometric characteristics; Nutrient retention; Stormwater management pond; Thermal stratification

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